Morning Time is a big topic in the Charlotte Mason world. Homeschooling moms, including myself, use it to consolidate things that might otherwise get lost in a busy schedule, or as a way to be more intentional about spreading the feast wide. Lately, I’ve even seen many moms printing out “menus” for their current Morning Time offerings as a way to really emphasize the feast idea as well as make the time more structured for their kids.
The idea behind Morning Time is really quite simple: have a specific time set aside, usually first thing before getting to lessons, for things that you’d like to include in your homeschool day like poetry, art, music, readings, things to memorize, etc., that are important to your family. You can see an outline of ours here.
One of the best things about this time is that it’s very flexible. If you find that something you’ve included isn’t working well, you can modify it, try something else, or eliminate it altogether. While your regular “lesson time” with subjects such as math and science can certainly grow character (especially if you’re using living books!), I feel like Morning Time allows for that growth even more by including things that instill in your kids your values.
This has worked so well in our homeschool, that I decided I might try making my own little morning routine for myself as well.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I was reading The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson. I struggled with this book in some ways, but one story that really stuck with me was how her kids always remembered her having a “quiet time” or devotional time or personal time with God each morning. It was a time when she was in a quiet space, maybe with a cup of coffee or tea, and read her Bible and prayed. This wasn’t the first time this concept had presented itself to me as I grew up in churches where personal devotional time was a high priority that often happened in the mornings. But for some reason, it felt different to me this time. I appreciated the fact that she was not only leading by example for her kids so that they had this memory, but also taking time for herself. She knew she needed to feed herself in this way, and she set this time aside specifically for this purpose.
Admittedly, my morning routine was severely lacking any type of communion with God at this point in my life. I’ve never been a morning person and devotional time has rarely worked its way into my AM hours. Before I had kids, I’d sporadically have a short devotional time in the afternoon, or during the year before B’s birth, I was slowly going through Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope with friends, but that was pretty much it.
After B came along, I spent a few months when he was very tiny listening to Brian Hardin read a portion of the Bible every day while I made breakfast, but often found myself getting through the entire recording and realizing I hadn’t actually heard a single word as I was focused on other things while it played.
Aside from that, reading the Bible and even having a time of purposeful prayer each day was sporadic at best during these years, even though I truly did want to do these things regularly. Honestly, when B came along, having never really been around a small child for any extended amount of time before, I was just trying to figure out what in the world a day should look like for us. Attempting to include All.The.Things was overwhelming to my sleep-deprived brain. When C came along, my ability to be more intentional with my time became even less, and the most I could manage was praying the daily offices from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours series. It was at least something to center me back on God a few times a day and I was so thankful (and still am!) for these books during that time in my life, but I knew I eventually wanted something more.
And of course, during this time I also joined the smartphone minions and started wasting away in the land of scrolling. My mornings, especially when I started doing virtual assistant work, usually began with me checking my email and jumping on the information super highway first thing. I excused myself because I felt like I was in survival mode, but obviously my habits weren’t doing me any favors in terms of growing me spiritually.
In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren, wrote about what she did when she realized she was beginning her days in a similar fashion:
…I decided for Lent that year I’d exchange routines: I’d stop waking up with my phone, and instead I’d make the bed, first thing. I also decided to spend the first few minutes after I made the bed sitting (on my freshly made bed) in silence. So I banished my smartphone from the bedroom.
My new Lenten routine didn’t make me wildly successful or cheerfully buoyant as some had promised, but I began to notice, very subtly, that my day was imprinted differently. The first activity of my day, the first move I made, was not that of a consumer, but that of a colaborer with God. Instead of going to a device for a morning fix of instant infotainment, I touched the tangible softness of our well-worn covers, tugged against wrinkled cotton, felt the hard wood beneath my bare feet. In the creation story, God entered chaos and made order and beauty. In making my bed I reflected that creative act in the tiniest, most ordinary way. In my small chaos, I made small order.
So with these ideas in my back pocket, over the last-year-and-a-half, I have slowly made a morning routine for myself. Usually before the kids get up and sometimes when they’re already awake (and definitely before I even touch my phone), I climb out of bed and go downstairs to our living room, curl up in a green armchair we got on clearance at Ikea, and make my way through a stack of books that permanently resides on the small table beside the chair. The books have changed throughout the year as my morning routine is just as flexible as that of our school time, but the general rhythm has been the same. And even though I don’t do it every single day, this is the first time in my life that I have consistently had a quiet time like this for this long.
It has been a good thing.
I’m sharing what my morning routine looks like here, however this is a very personal thing so I’m not sharing this to say that I think everyone’s morning routine should look this way. We all grow in different ways and your way may look different than mine. Also, in different seasons of life, we can manage more, while in other seasons, not so much. For instance, despite my waxing poetic about what this time is for me right now and regretting my lack of it just a few years ago, I most likely would not have been able to do this when my children were babies and toddlers. This is what I can manage right now in this season of life.
I begin my time taking in a few deep breaths and bring my mind into God’s presence, flushing away all the thoughts and distractions pulling at my attention first thing in the morning. Then I pray Psalm 51 and praise God with 1 Peter 1:3 from the morning prayers for individuals and families in the Book of Common Prayer. This is somewhat ironic as I grew up in a church that frowned upon using pre-written prayers (aside from the Lord’s Prayer) and any kind of traditional liturgy, but in recent years, I’ve found a great deal of comfort in reciting these verses and prayers each and every day.
Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
I’ve also added in another prayer from the BCP, which I usually personalize with our names, to follow this:
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I then begin going down the stack of books. I start with the day’s reading from The Cloud of Witness (later I read The Golden Key with the kids at breakfast). This is followed by whatever book I am going through at the time that might fall into a “religious” or spiritual growth category. I honestly don’t know how to classify these, but over the course of the last year-and-a-half, just by reading a small amount each day, I have made my way through at least part of the following books during this time:
- Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Right now I’m reading through Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. Some of these are conveniently broken up into small sections that are perfect to read each day, while others I just go through a page or two. Another benefit to reading slowly like this is that I have more time to mull over a section of reading, rather than reading a large chunk of it and losing important parts.
I then move on to the daily office lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer, which includes a Psalm, a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the New Testament, and a reading from the Gospels for each day of the year, as well as special readings for feast or holy days. As I previously stated, I did not grow up in a church that followed any kind of traditional liturgy, so this has been a learning curve for me, but I have absolutely loved going through the seasons of the church year and taking part in feast days during my morning routine. Revisiting sections of the Bible and parts of the life of Christ during a specific time of the year or going through the readings about a certain figure from the Bible on a specific date feels, in some ways, like meeting an old friend. If you’re not partial to the Anglican/Episcopal selections, the Revised Common Lectionary also offers daily readings, or you could use the aforementioned Daily Audio Bible, though it does not follow the church year.
And then I have a sort of spontaneous prayer time, offering up specific requests for my family, friends, etc. This is followed by the Lord’s Prayer and then I end by going back to the morning prayers for individuals and families with this:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scattered in there among the various readings, if something strikes me, I’ll copy things into my commonplace book which I keep in that stack of books. This is so good to have as I often want to go back and re-read something that I thought was profound and don’t have to page through a book trying to find it.
So this is what it looks like right now, though I’m sure this will change as it already has over the last year-and-a-half. I have a few other books in mind that I’d like to work through after I finish The Imitation of Christ, but right now I’m trying to focus on what I’m taking from that book instead of always looking to what I’ll do next, which is a bad habit of mine. This morning routine practice allows for growth in many ways!